Grading GM Tom Telesco's 10 NFL drafts with Chargers: Hasn't gone to the letter

He doesn’t mock mock drafts. Tom Telesco, instead, participates in them.

The Chargers general manager estimated that he recently has run “25 to 30” versions through various online simulators in advance of the real thing Thursday night.

“It’s all mental exercises,” Telesco said Monday. “Obviously [during the actual draft], you’re making decisions with a clock over your head. You really can’t wait until you’re on the clock and then start talking to people and decide what you want to do.”

The Chargers have the 21st pick in what will be Telesco’s 11th draft as general manager. They have one selection in each of the next six rounds, as well.

During his decade-plus in charge, Telesco had drafted seven players who’ve made 17 combined Pro Bowls. Three years ago, he made his most prized pick: quarterback Justin Herbert.

A look at Telesco’s year-by-year history:

2013 picks: 1 OT D.J. Fluker, 2 LB Manti Te’o, 3 WR Keenan Allen, 5 DB Steve Williams, 6 LB Tourek Williams, 7 QB Brad Sorensen.

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen runs in open field.

Drafted in 2013, receiver Keenan Allen is still making big plays for the Chargers.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Analysis: Telesco’s first draft with the Chargers continues to yield production as Allen remains a primary offensive target. By the end of the 2023 season, Allen should be the franchise’s all-time leader in catches and yards among wide receivers. Though he never developed into a top offensive lineman, Fluker — taken 11th overall — did start 59 games for the Chargers over four seasons. Te’o also spent four seasons with the team, making 34 starts.

2014: 1 CB Jason Verrett, 2 LB Jeremiah Attaochu, 3 G Chris Watt, 5 DT Ryan Carrethers, 6 RB Marion Grice, 7 WR Tevin Reese.

This is Telesco’s least-productive draft, a fact emphasized by Verrett’s career-long misfortune with injuries. A Pro Bowler in his second season, Verrett has been unable to fulfill his first-round potential because his body continually has broken down. Attaochu is still active and even returned to the Chargers last season, appearing in two games.

2015: 1 RB Melvin Gordon III, 2 LB Denzel Perryman, 3 CB Craig Mager, 4 LB Kyle Emanuel, 6 DT Darius Philon.

Gordon rushed for 2,987 yards and scored 28 touchdowns over a three-year stretch starting in 2016. His time with the team ended somewhat awkwardly after a poorly devised training-camp holdout in 2019. Perryman spent six years with the Chargers and has had a solid NFL career as he prepares for his first year with Houston. As the 192nd player selected, Philon gave the Chargers back-to-back decent seasons in 2017-18.

2016: 1 Edge Joey Bosa, 2 TE Hunter Henry, 3 C Max Tuerk, 4 LB Joshua Perry, 5 LB Jatavis Brown, 6 P Drew Kaser, FB Derek Watt, G Donavon Clark.

With his highest pick as a general manager — No. 3 overall — Telesco didn’t miss in selecting Bosa, who remains one of the league’s top edge rushers. Henry was a solid contributor for four seasons, and Brown started 10 games for the Chargers’ 2018 playoff team. Watt, with 110, has appeared in more NFL games than every Telesco draft pick other than Allen (126).

2017: 1 WR Mike Williams, 2 G Forrest Lamp, 3 OL Dan Feeney, 4 S Rayshawn Jenkins, 5 DB Desmond King, 6 OT Sam Tevi, 7 Edge Isaac Rochell.

Six of Telesco’s seven picks all became regular contributors for the team and even the seventh — Lamp — started all 16 games during 2020. Entering his seventh year, Williams appears poised to become the Chargers’ No. 1 wideout, a spot held for years by Allen. The 2023 team’s chances hinge in part on Williams’ ability to continue to be a deep-ball threat.

2018: 1 S Derwin James Jr., 2 Edge Uchenna Nwosu, 3 DT Justin Jones, 4 LB Kazir White, 5 C Scott Quessenberry, 6 WR Dylan Cantrell, 7 RB Justin Jackson.

 Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. (3) celebrates a stop against the Houston Texans.

When healthy, safety Derwin James Jr. (3) has been one of the Chargers best players.

(Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press)

With some injury issues coming out of Florida State, James slid No. 17, where Telesco grabbed him. The concern about James’ health surfaced when he missed most of 2019 and all of 2020. But in the three seasons he has played, James has been one of the NFL’s best safeties. Nwosu, Jones and White all became starters, and Jackson provided the Chargers with production when he was healthy.

2019: 1 DT Jerry Tillery, 2 S Nasir Adderley, 3 OT Trey Pipkins III, 4 LB Drue Tranquill, 5 QB Easton Stick, 6 LB Emeke Egbule, 7 DL Cortez Broughton.

After they made the playoffs the previous season, the Chargers’ top pick here fell to No. 28, where Telesco took Tillery, who proved himself to be a first-rounder only technically. Despite failing to emerge as a star, Tillery was generally available during his three-plus seasons with the team. In fact, only four players drafted ahead of him have appeared in more NFL games. Adderley and Tranquill became starters, and Pipkins represents one of Telesco’s top project picks as he earned a second contract this offseason.

2020: 1 QB Justin Herbert, LB Kenneth Murray Jr., 4 RB Joshua Kelley, 5 WR Joe Reed, 6 S Alohi Gilman, 7 WR K.J. Hill.

When Miami took Tua Tagovailoa at No. 5, Telesco was left to make the pick that likely will forever headline his career as a general manager. Herbert has authored one of the finest starts for a quarterback in NFL history and could easily be the franchise’s starter for another 15 years or so. Murray has played well but almost certainly won’t have his fifth-year option picked up this offseason. Kelley and Gilman remain regular contributors, though Reed and Hill never developed into options on offense.

2021: 1 OT Rashawn Slater, 2 CB Asante Samuel Jr., 3 WR Joshua Palmer, TE Tre’ McKitty, 4 Edge Chris Rumph II, 5 OL Brenden Jaimes, 6 LB Nick Niemann, RB Larry Rountree III, 7 S Mark Webb.

Topped by Slater, each of Telesco’s first three selections are significant pieces entering the 2023 season. There were some concerns around the league about Slater’s ability to play tackle. Those lasted about three days into his first training camp when it became clear Telesco had chosen wisely. Samuel has had some issues with health and his size is something opponents have targeted in the running game, but he can make plays and is a more than willing tackler.

2022: 1 G Zion Johnson, 3 S JT Woods, 4 RB Isaiah Spiller, 5 DT Otito Ogbonnia, 6 OL Jamaree Salyer, CB Ja’Sir Taylor, 7 DB Deane Leonard, FB Zander Horvath.

Telesco’s work netted 40% of the Chargers’ starting offensive line entering 2023, with Johnson and Salyer both emerging as front-line options as rookies. Salyer has the potential to be a genuine late-round find for this team. The Chargers remain particularly high on Woods and Spiller, and Ogbonnia was playing his best before suffering a season-ending knee injury in mid-November.

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